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ADULT JEWISH LEARNING 

Adult learning at Congregation Beth El welcomes everyone, aware that we each come to Jewish learning from our different personal backgrounds.

For us, adult Jewish learning is about applying our intellectual and spiritual curiosities in order achieve new personal insights and Jewish literacy.

For each of us to strive according to our own interests for deeper understanding about our Jewish identities, renewed religious or spiritual character, heightened ethical awareness, and a love of Judaism. As we each may desire, to be able to see the experiences of our lives through the lens of the Jewish People’s story, ideas, and values.

WELCOME TO BEIT: BETH EL IS THURSDAY

Beth El Is Thursday, our BEIT Midrash program, offers courses that tell the Jewish story. Classes rotate throughout the year selected from a variety of subjects including Bible, Rabbinic Texts, Jewish Ethics and Values, Liturgy and Synagogue Skills, Celebrations and Observances, History and Modernity, Jewish Thought, Arts and Culture, and the Hebrew language. Throughout the year we welcome and learn with a variety of scholars and guest speakers.

Everyone is welcome to join in our online BEIT Midrash on Thursday evenings. On each Beth El is Thursday evening you’ll choose from among a variety of online experiences and courses. 

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BEIT learning experiences take place during two time slots. At 6:30 pm choose one from a number of experiences. At 7:45 pm attend the weekly BEIT feature: Rabbi Shulman’s class, a guest lecture or presentation, or a special program. Our faculty and speakers are local favorites and guests from many places.
 
2020
 
2021

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JANUARY 2021 BEIT EXPERIENCES

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EXPERIENCE I| 6:30PM

Dr. David Kraemer of the Jewish Theological Seminary,
New York
January 14, 21, & 28
 

Through the ages, Jews have lived in various diasporas, building homes, raising families, and creating a remarkable religious life. In those homes they not only longed for a future redemption, but they also argued for the legitimacy of their diaspora existence, even to the point of equating their current home with “Zion.” In these three sessions, we will consider biblical works, rabbinic teachings, and medieval-early modern Jewish writings “de-fending diaspora.

”We are delighted to welcome Dr. David Kraemer to our BEIT program. Dr. Kraemer is Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics and Librarian at the Jewish Theological seminary of America. Dr. Kraemer’s  focus as a professor is on the literary analysis of rabbinic literature, rabbinic ritual, and the social and religious history of Jews in late antiquity. Dr. Kraemer is a prolific author and commentator.

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Together and Apart: The Future of Jewish Peoplehood
Dr. Ray Fink
January 7, 14, & 28

Can we imagine a new relationship for the Jewish  community with 2 homes based on shared beliefs, shared family, and shared interests? This series will continue to explore the topics from the most recent Hartman Institute's I Engage program.
 

Dr. Ray Fink is a Past President of Congregation Beth El, a respected physician in our community, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Shalom Hartman Institute.
 

 

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Torah Reading
Dr. Ran Anbar
Begins January 7  and continues each week BEIT meets
 

Learn to read Torah or grow your Torah reading skills. If you wish, read Torah on occasional  Shabbat mornings as member of our Torah  reading squad. We meet on a regular basis to teach Torah trope to beginners, review trope  with more experienced readers, and practice  upcoming Torah readings.

Dr. Ran Anbar, is board certified in  both pediatric pulmonology and  general pediatrics, offering hypnosis and counseling services. As an active member of Congregation Beth El, Ran is our Torah reading coordinator who can be found each Shabbat reading, or assisting other to read, from the Torah Scroll.

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Jewish Stories, Poetry, & Midrash
Mark Lazar
 
January 7
Have I got a story for you! Mark Lazar will share, by way of his unique approach, a few of his favorite stories and explore by way of discussion the themes and relevance in today’s Jewish world. Stories included will those of I.L. Peretz, S.Y. Agnon and Yehuda Ha’Hasid.
 
January 14
Dylan as TextUsing the words of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan, Mark Lazar will explore with the group personal and universal meanings within the text. Just as Jews traditionally have studied rabbinic text, we will do the same by this iconic song writer. The emphasis will not be on what Dylan intended, but on what it says to us now, and possibly  what it said to us when we first encountered his words.
 
January 21
Contemporary Poetic Midrash Over the years, Mark Lazar has written poems based on Jewish concepts related to the Torah and themes of Jewish holidays. Some of his works have been published by Queen’s College and Lim-mud International. Mark will share selections of his works and open himself up to interpretations, explanations and critique. Participants are encour-aged to share any of their own works as well.
 

Mark Lazar has been involved with informal Jewish Education since the early 1970’s. From 1993 until 2016, Mark was based in Jerusalem and worked for numerous through the Jewish Agency, the Joint Distribution Committee and Archaeological Seminars.  Mark guided over one hundred journeys in Israel including Birthright as well as guiding over sixty journeys to Poland dealing with the Holocaust. Mark often engages our  VTS students and teens with this stories, re-enactments, and lessons.

EXPERIENCE II | 7:45PM

Embracing Auschwitz
Forging a Vibrant Life-Affirming Judaism that takes the Holocaust seriously
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman
January 7
 

The Judaism of Sinai and the Judaism of Auschwitz are merging, resulting in new visions of Judaism that are only beginning to take shape. Any new expression of Judaism today must place the  Holocaust experience directly at its core or it  will not be authentic. But just as it cannot ignore the abyss, any modern expression of Judaism must also affirm joy, beauty, and moral grounding or it will not survive. Jewish revitalization will be assured when grandchildren of survivors and  others of their generation can begin to take  the darkness of the Shoah and turn it into song, absorbing the absurdity of a silent God while  loving life nonetheless.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman is an award winning journalist and blogger who has served Temple Beth El in Stamford, CT for over three decades. Rabbi Hammerman earned degrees from Brown University and New York University in Journalism, and ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

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Yiddish Poets Confront Racism
Dr. Amelia Glaser
January 14
 

How have Jewish writers used memories of trauma to confront race violence in the United States? In this session, Amelia Glaser will discuss her work on Yiddish poetry about racial injustice in the 1930s, and will introduce a few little-known Yiddish writers who connected pogroms the rise of Hitler to anti-Black violence in the US. In the 1930s, poems about lynchings were part of a broader movement among Yiddish writers, who, faced with the rising threats of fascism in Europe and racism in the US, chose to write to promote social justice on both sides of the Atlantic.

Amelia Glaser’s most recent book, Songs in Dark Times: Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine, has just been published by Harvard University Press. Dr. Glaser is Associate Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature at UC San Diego, where she directs the Jewish Studies Program, as well as the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Program.

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Remix Judaism
Preserving tradition creatively in a diverse world
Professor Roberta Rosenthal Kwall
January 21
 

A unique and creative vision of Judaism for all Jews seeking a sense of belonging in a changing world. How does one select, reject, and/or modify the rituals and celebrations of Judaism and  Jewish tradition rather than focus solely on the obligations of Jewish law. This remixed approach to Judaism emphasizes the consistent observance of authentic rituals with personal insight. This presentation seeks to help us define our individual and family Jewish journeys by mindfully crafting patterns of joyful observance being authentic  and adaptable.

Roberta Rosenthal Kwall is a Professor of Law at DePaul University Law School. A prolific scholar whose focuses on Jewish law and culture, Roberta Kwall is a popular lecturer and author.

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Tu B’Shevat Celebration
January 28
 

To honor Tu B’Shevat, we’ll turn to the sources of Jewish tradition for holiday meanings, and symbolically enjoy the spirit and themes of a Tu B’Shevat Seder.

 

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BEIT learning experiences take place during two time slots. At 6:30 pm choose one from a number of experiences. At 7:45 pm attend the weekly BEIT feature: Rabbi Shulman’s class, a guest lecture or presentation, or a special program. Our faculty and speakers are local favorites and guests from many places.

MARCH 2021 BEIT EXPERIENCES

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EXPERIENCE I | 7:30PM

Jews and Social Justice: A Deep Dive
Rabbi Philip Graubart
March 4, 11 & 18
 
In this series, we’ll explore the connection between Jews, Judaism and the social justice movements in the United States. We’ll study the roots of the Jewish commitment to social justice; discuss  the parameters of the ideal Jewish social justice society; and review the awkward and interesting tensions in the Jewish encounter with identity politics and cancel culture. We’ll examine these topics using classical Jewish sources, as well as the writings of contemporary journalists and scholars.
 
Rabbi Philip Graubart served as our Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth El for fifteen years. Most recently, he was a vice president at the Shalom Hartman Institute, and director of Jewish life and learning at the San Diego Jewish Academy where he currently teaches.

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Paradigm Shifts: Lessons for Today from the Sanhedrin of Yesterday
Rabbi Hannah Estrin
March 4, 11, & 18
 
Walk in the footsteps of the Rabbis of the First Century as they struggle with the changing realities of their world and reimagine Judaism  in a new and vibrant way. The three weeks build upon each other but can stand alone as well.
 
Rabbi Hannah Estrin is an engaging tour guide and educator living in Jerusalem.  Her teaching explores the intersection of text, spirituality and Israel with the self. She loves to live the mitzvah of “you shall walk the length and breadth of the land” and is often found out on a trail when not sharing with others.

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EXPERIENCE II | 7:45PM

The Passover Haggadah, A Biography
Telling the story behind our most familiar Jewish text
Rabbi Vanessa Ochs
M a r c h  11
 
Every year at Passover, Jews around the world gather for the Seder. The Passover Haggadah used at the Seder is a religious text unlike any other. There are so many varieties. How did this text emerge from antiquity and oral practice to its vibrant proliferation today? Come explore the origins of the Haggadah and the history of its development and variety over time.
 
Rabbi Vanessa Ochs is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and an ordained rabbi. Her book, Inventing Jewish Ritual won the National Jewish Book Award.

2020 PREVIOUS BEIT EXPERIENCES

DECEMBER BEIT EXPERIENCE I | 6:30 PM

Triumph, Tragedy and Loneliness: Great Modern Jewish Thinkers
Rabbi Philip Graubart
December 3, 10, & 17
 

How can Jews today develop serious, spiritual lives in a world filled with technological distractions, material ambitions, social pressures, and now the looming threat of violence and disease? How do find room in the heart for deep intimacy during these pressure-filled times? In this class, we’ll grapple with the writings of Abraham Heschel, Joseph Soloveichick, and David Hartman, each of whom developed a system of personal, existential spirituality designed to balance the unprecedented challenges of modern life. We’ll read from Heschel’s The Sabbath, Soloveichick’s Lonely Man of Faith, and a variety of works from David Hartman, and learn how these great thinkers continue to teach and inspire.

Rabbi Philip Graubart served as our Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth El for fifteen years. Most recently, he was a vice president at the Shalom Hartman Institute, and director of Jewish life and learning at the San Diego Jewish Academy where he currently teaches.

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American Jewish Food
Professor Joellyn Zollman
December 3, 10, & 17
 

Join Dr. Zollman in an exploration of American Jewish Food. We’ll ask what Jewish food is. We’ll learn about the history of the Jewish Deli in America, and look into what the connection is between American Jews and Chinese food. Come hungry to learn!

Joellyn Zollman, Ph.D has taught Jewish history at SDSU, UCSD, and the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture. She recently curated Celebrate, Commemorate! The History and Heritage of San Diego’s Jewish Community, an exhibition at the San Diego History Center.

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Torah Reading
Dr. Ran Anbar
Begins October 15 and continues each week BEIT meets
 

Learn to read Torah or grow your Torah reading skills. If you wish, read Torah on occasional Shabbat mornings as member of our Torah reading squad. We meet on a regular basis to teach Torah trope to beginners, review trope with more experienced readers, and practice upcoming Torah readings. 

Dr. Ran Anbar, is board certified in both pediatric pulmonology and general pediatrics, offering hypnosis and counseling services. As an active member of Congregation Beth El, Ran is our Torah reading coordinator who can be found each Shabbat reading, or assisting other to read, from the Torah Scroll.

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BEIT EXPERIENCE II | 7:45 PM

Getting Good at Getting Older
Rabbi Laura Geller
December 3

The baby boomer generation transformed society in the 60’s and 70’s and changed the way the world saw young people. Now this generation is in our 60’s and 70’s, and we are challenging assumptions about aging by living longer, being more active than our parents and grandparents, and simply doing things differently as we age. In the process, we are changing the way the world sees older people.

Rabbi Laura Geller’s book, Getting Good at Getting Older gives the “young older” an opportunity to discover, in Jewish tradition and culture, the tools, resources, and skills needed to navigate the years between maturity and old age, and create a new paradigm for growing older.

Laura Geller is Rabbi Emerita of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and recognized as an “Influencer in Aging.” She serves on a number of organizational boards, including the Jewish Women’s Archive. Ordained a rabbi in 1976, Rabbi Geller is the third woman rabbi in the Reform Movement.

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Happy Hanukkah!
Rabbi Ron Shulman
December 10

First Night of Hanukkah
Set up your Hanukkah Menorah at home and join us on Zoom to kindle the first night’s light! In the glow of our Hanukkiyot, we’ll share insights into Hanukkah’s history and celebrate the promise of Hanukkah’s light!

Waiting for a Miracle or Witnessing a Miracle?
Join Rabbi Shulman in a unique study of what happened when the Maccabees rededicated the Temple.

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NOVEMBER BEIT EXPERIENCE I | 6:30 PM

Touring & Torah: Exploring Israel and Judaism
Rabbi Hannah Estrin
November 5, 12, & 19

•    Jerusalem: Reflections with Yehuda Amichai. Considered one of the most important Israeli poets of his generation, Yehuda Amichai did not shy away from bringing to the light some of Israel's challenges. His poetry contains an honest look at both joyous and painful emotions in his lifetime. Together, we will explore and reflect upon a few of the themes found in his poems.
•    Tzfat: Kabbalat Shabbat and the Blue Town.  Visit the city of Tzfat where 'The Expulsion', Kabbalah and the Ottoman Empire intersect with Judaism. Meet the Rabbis who gather here and travel with them to better understand the historical and spiritual context of our Kabbalat Shabbat service today.
•    Israel: 100 Years, Dreaming of Deliverance. From the time of Abraham and Moses, the dream of the Land of Israel has never ceased.   Since Theodore Herzl stood on the bow of a ship headed toward Palestine that dream has slowly come to fruition once again. Join together to race the borders, the politics, and the lives of the land, from the British through today.

Rabbi Hannah Estrin is an engaging tour guide and educator living in Jerusalem. Her teaching explores the intersection of text, spirituality and Israel with the self. She loves to live the mitzvah of "you shall walk the length and breadth of the land" and is often found out on a trail when not sharing with others.

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Listening, Justice and Peace - Lessons from our Tradition in an Era of Polarity
Dr. Ray Fink
November 5, 12, & 19

Join Dr. Ray Fink to explore textual and conceptual insights and values from Jewish tradition appropriate for these challenging times in which we are living.

Dr. Ray Fink is a Past President of Congregation Beth El, a respected physician in our community, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Shalom Hartman Institute.

 

COVID & Covenant: The Impact of this Pandemic on Jewish Belief
Rabbi Ron Shulman
November 5, 12, & 19

COVID-19 will likely have an impact on Jewish theology and thought into the future. We will come out of this pandemic with questions about Jewish belief past, present, and future. Jewish ideas always reflect a dialogue between traditional Judaism and contemporary experience. Does our experience during these pandemic days impact what we believe or what older or newer Jewish ideas we think are important? Rabbi Shulman invites you to read a few thought pieces with him and think through this question.

 

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Torah Reading
Ran Anbar
Each week BEIT meets

Learn to read Torah or grow your Torah reading skills. If you wish, read Torah on occasional Shabbat mornings as member of our Torah reading squad. We meet on a regular basis to teach Torah trope to beginners, review trope with more experienced readers, and practice upcoming Torah readings.

Dr. Ran Anbar, is board certified in both pediatric pulmonology and general pediatrics, offering hypnosis and counseling services. As an active member of Congregation Beth El, Ran is our Torah reading coordinator who can be found each Shabbat reading, or assisting other to read, from the Torah Scroll.

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Shabbat Torah Study with Rabbi Ron Shulman
Saturdays, October 31, November 7, & November 14
RSVP here
12:15 pm on Zoom, following Shabbat Morning Services
 

Discovering insights for our lives from the tests of Abraham’s life.

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NOVEMBER BEIT experience II | 7:45 PM

Casual Conversation
Rabbi Ron Shulman
November 5


After our BEIT I Experience learning, for those who wish to, we’ll spend some time on Zoom together in casual conversation. We don’t get the chance to spend time together in person these days, so let’s spend a little virtual time together reflecting and connecting.
 

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The Words of My Father
Love and Pain in Palestine
Mr. Yousef Bashir
November 12

Yousef Bashir grew up in Gaza. Standing in his front yard with his father and three United Nations observers, he was shot in the spine by an Israeli soldier, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down for a year. Israeli doctors treated him and helped him learn to walk again. In the wake of that experience, Yousef was forced to reckon with the words of his father who believed strongly in coexisting peacefully with his Israeli neighbors. Like the empathetic man who raised him, Yousef became an outspoken activist for peace with Israel. His story is one of moral awakening in which the ideals of peace and empathy are a soothing balm for these troubled times.

Yousef Bashir is a Palestinian American from the Gaza Strip who made his way to the United States where he earned a B.A. in International Affairs form Northeastern University and an M.A in Co-Existence and Conflict from Brandeis University. Now living and working in Washington D.C. Yousef Bashir is a vigorous advocate of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

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Conservative Judaism Today
Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal
November 19

Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal serves as both the Chief Executive of the Rabbinical Assembly and as the Chief Executive Officer of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. In this new dual role, Rabbi Blumenthal seeks to create a dynamic new spirit of collaboration and renewal for Conservative synagogues and their leadership. Come meet Rabbi Blumenthal as he and Rabbi Shulman dialogue about who we are and what we seek as members of Conservative synagogues today.

Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal was the founding rabbi of Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg, Maryland and also helped create Washington, D.C.’s Ramah Day Camp and local outreach programs to millennials. He is regarded as a communal innovator and entrepreneur.
 

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OCTOBER BEIT EXPERIENCE I | 6:30 PM

Don't Tread on Us: Flags in Jewish Tradition and Modernity
Dr. Bard Cosman
October 15, 22, & 29

Come understand the role flags play in Jewish tradition and the role Jewish tradition plays in modern flags. What do they symbolize? What are their origins? Dr. Cosman bases this fun class on an article of his that won the 2019 best paper award from the North American Vexillological (study of the history, symbolism, and usage of flags) Association.

Bard Cosman, MD, FACS, FASCRS, is a board-certified surgeon and professor in the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. He teaches students and residents and trains fellows in surgical procedures. He has authored or coauthored more than 50 articles that have been published in a variety of journals. Bard is an active member of Congregation Beth El who often teaches following morning minyan and delivers occasional sermons on Shabbat.

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From Joseph to Freud: The Meaning of Dreams in Ancient and Modern Times
Dr. Oded Shezifi
October 15, 22, & 29

The mystery of dreams has occupied humans' thoughts for thousands of years.  What do we truly know about the meaning of these night visions? Are they really the royal road to our unconscious? Do they have meaning and purpose? In this class we will review famous biblical dreams and their interpretations. We will see how in ancient times dreams shaped the decisions of pharaohs whereas in modern times their meaning is often reduced to random neural activity in the brain.  Do we really know today more about dreams than what Joseph knew back in Egypt? 

Dr. Oded Shezifi is a clinical psychologist who also teaches at UCSD-Extension. He is a play therapist supervisor and a certified Jewish mindfulness teacher. Oded has served as a medic and aviation physiology instructor at the IAF and has worked as a clinician at Jewish Family Service where he supervised and taught clinical interns the History of Psychotherapy. 

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Between Jews & Christians
Dr./Reverend Reinhard Krauss
October 15, 22, & 29

We’ll explore different approaches to thinking about the relationship between Jews and Christians by reading and discussing Christian and Jewish voices through history.

Dr. Reinhard Krauss is the Executive Director of the Academy for Judaic, Christian, and Islamic Studies. Since 2008 he has taught Inter-religious Studies as a Lecturer at the Center for the Study of Religion at UCLA. Dr. Krauss is a recipient of Interfaith understanding awards. He earned his Ph.D. in Theology from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

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OCTOBER BEIT EXPERIENCE II | 7:45PM

Musar: Uncovering Jewish Ethics
Rabbi Ron Shulman
October 15, 22, & 29
 

Unique in Jewish expression, 18th and 19th century Musar literature seeks to inspire ethical behavior and spiritual reflection. Join Rabbi Shulman in exploring some of the classic texts of Musar tradition including “The Path of the Upright” by Rabbi Moses Hayyim Luzzatto.

beit: featured guest lectures 2020-21

Thursday evenings, 7:45 pm

Our featured guest lectures through the Jewish Book Council this year include:

            Yousef Bashir, author of The Words of My Father on November 12, 2020
                        A call for peace with Israel through the experience of a Palestinian American.

            Rabbi Laura Geller, author of Getting Good at Getting Older on December 3, 2020.
                        Discovering how Jewish tradition and culture help create a new paradigm for growing older.

            Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, author of Embracing Auschwitz on January 7, 2021.
                        Forging a Vibrant Life-Affirming Judaism that takes the Holocaust seriously.

            Roberta Rosenthal Kwall, author of Remix Judaism on February 4, 2021.
                        Preserving tradition creatively in a diverse world.

            Rabbi Vanessa Ochs, author of The Passover Haggadah, A Biography on March 11, 2021.
                        Telling the story behind our most familiar Jewish text.

            Neal Bascomb, author of Faster on April 22, 2021.
                        How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car beat Hitler’s best.

            Rabbi Avram Mlotek, author of Why Jews Do That on May 6, 2021.
                        A one-stop shop for answers to the questions you were too shy or afraid to ask.

Thu, January 21 2021 8 Shevat 5781